Europe Highlights 39 Routes Of Concern In Lufthansa

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  • The European Commission’s objections to the ITA-Lufthansa merger focus on 39 routes, causing potential market dominance.
  • Intercontinental routes like Rome to New York are a key concern for the competition authority.
  • Italy expresses frustration as Brussels’ opposition to the merger threatens the development of a competitive national airline.

Details have emerged regarding the specifics of the European Commission’s objections to the ITALufthansa merger. As seen by Italian media Corriere della Sera, the full and unredacted document lays out the routes the European Commission’s antitrust authority deems problematic.

In November of last year, Lufthansa informed the European Commission of its intention to purchase 41% of the revived Italian national airline, eventually taking complete control at a later stage. As reported by Simple Flying, the European Commission opened a so-called Phase II investigation into the acquisition in January, giving it – at least officially -until June 6 to provide a final decision.

The routes affected

The document, which the Italian news site received from sources, provides the exact details for the routes that pose competition-related issues. The purchase of ITA by Lufthansa would de facto make the two companies a single entity. On some of their current routes, the airlines compete. Once merged, operating as a single entity, they would dominate the markets concerned. The European Commission’s antitrust authority worries that this would cause prices to rise and quality of service to reduce.

There are a total of 39 routes listed in the document. 12 of these routes originate in either Rome or Milan, going to cities in the rest of Europe, and 14 originate in smaller, secondary towns in Italy, also going to the rest of Europe. Eight refer to long-haul intercontinental routes between Italy, the United States, Canada, and Japan. Both airlines dominate the market share on those routes, with passengers connecting on either Lufthansa or ITA flights to reach their final destinations. There are five other routes mentioned in the document despite the fact that there are no direct flights between them. Let’s look at the detailed list of all of the affected routes.

 Airbus 319 (EI-IMN) wearing the new livery of ITA Airways, on the runway of Linate Airport

Photo: Davide Calabresi | Shutterstock

An intercontinental nightmare

One of the more significant problems the European Commission has relates to the intercontinental routes, particularly affecting services between the United States and Italy. The intercontinental routes in the Commission’s Statement of Objections are listed as follows:

  • Rome to New York
  • Rome to Washington
  • Rome to San Francisco
  • Rome to Chicago
  • Rome to Toronto
  • Rome to Los Angeles
  • Rome to Miami
  • Rome to Tokyo
An ITA Airways Airbus A330 landing

Photo: The Global Guy | Shutterstock

ITA’s long-haul network spans 16 destinations, of which eight are listed above as concerns for Brussels’ competition authority. If the European Commission gets its way, 50% of the ITA long-haul route network would be slashed for the acquisition.


Rome To Tokyo Daily: ITA Airways Increases Frequency To Meet High Demand

The airline has witnessed impressive load factors on this route.

The Italian short to medium-haul market is already quite saturated. Europe’s low-cost carriers have grown rapidly in Italy over the last few years, posing a threat to other full-service airlines with generally higher operating costs. By developing on the long-haul side, ITA can attract both connecting passengers and attempt to mitigate at least some of the effects of low-cost airlines.

Potential cuts in Europe

The 12 routes from Milan and Rome are as follows:

  • Milan to Brussels
  • Milan to Dusseldorf
  • Milan to Frankfurt
  • Milan to Hamburg
  • Milan to Stuttgart
  • Milan (Malpensa) to Vienna
  • Rome to Brussels
  • Rome to Frankfurt
  • Rome to Munich
  • Rome to Zurich
  • Rome to Hamburg
  • Rome to Vienna

Note that the majority of these routes connect Lufthansa Group hubs with Italy. This includes flights to Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Frankfurt and Munich (Lufthansa), Vienna (Austrian Airlines) and Zurich (Swiss International Airlines).

An ITA Airways Airbus A320 on the runway.

Photo: Robert Buchel | Shutterstock

Another group of 14 routes disproportionately affect the south of Italy.

  • Bari to Frankfurt
  • Bari to Hamburg
  • Bari to Munich
  • Brindisi to Dusseldorf
  • Brindisi to Stuttgart
  • Cagliari to Munich
  • Catania to Frankfurt
  • Lamezia Terme to Zurich
  • Naples to Dusseldorf
  • Naples to Frankfurt
  • Naples to Stuttgart
  • Palermo to Frankfurt
  • Rome to Stuttgart
  • Naples to Hamburg

Finally, the European Commission’s Statement of Objections underlines five routes on which none of the two airlines operate, but that would indirectly be affected should the merger be approved. This includes:

  • Naples to New York (only in Winter)
  • Milan to San Francisco
  • Firenze to New York
  • Catania to New York
  • Bologna to New York

Frustration in Italy

Inevitably, Italy is not happy. The Minister for the Economy, Giancarlo Giorgetti, says that Brussels is attempting to stop Italy from creating a world-renowned airline that can compete internationally. Per Il Sole 24 Ore, he said:

“We have an airline called Ita, previously called Alitalia. We said: let’s try to build a European champion that can compete with the international giants. For ten months we have been fighting with Europe which does not allow us to do this.”


Lufthansa Reportedly Threatens To Withdraw From ITA Purchase Over EU Concerns

In a statement to Simple Flying, Lufthansa says it is nevertheless confident that “the Merger Application will be approved”.

How both airlines will respond to the Statement of Objections remains to be seen. They have until April 26 to propose solutions (including concessions) and, if not, attempt to convince Brussels that the benefits outweigh the supposed downsides.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

  • ITA Airways Airbus A330 in sky
    ITA Airways

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Rome Fiumicino Airport

    Year Founded:


    Fabio Lazzerini


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